During his visit to Cuba, Pope John Paul II made a predictable attack on abortion and called for freedom of religion in the communist state. But if the island's population of lambs, goats and chickens had their way, the pontiff would also expose the scourge of something called Santeria. And no, it is not the latest animal disease. Not only have tens of thousands of Cubans made their way to the United States before and after Fidel Castro's revolution, but they have exported with them the bizarre religion known as Santeria. The faith, whose name means 'veneration of the saints', is something of a mix of African tribal voodoo and the more ritualistic aspects of Catholicism, and originally came to Cuba along with black slaves from West Africa. Its more colourful aspects, including ritual animal sacrifice, have occasionally popped up in US headlines, but despite an off-the-wall reputation, Santeria has spread widely across the US, even into white suburbia. And as a Long Island community found out to its horror last week, it is not only animals which end up being sacrificed at the altar of the cult's Dark Age superstitions. A 17-year-old high-school girl, Charity Miranda, was held down by family members and suffocated with a plastic bag because they thought she was possessed by an evil spirit. Even The Exorcist had a happy ending, but this tragedy ended with the arrest of her mother and elder sister on murder charges. The mother, 39-year-old Vivian Miranda, was a recent convert to Santeria and had spent last Sunday evening trying to get the demon out of Charity by such ingenious techniques as putting her mouth to her daughter's and asking her to blow it out. When all failed, the mother decided she had no choice but to kill her. When the family had finished the deed, they threw the body down the stairs to make it look like an accident, and then proceeded to pray to their myriad voodoo deities while listening to a Frank Sinatra CD. (Surely not That Old Black Magic.) To most observers, the religion's most disgusting practice is the animal sacrifices its priests carry out to offer blood to the gods. But when in 1993 one Florida city banned the slaughters, Santeria's elders took the case all the way to the Supreme Court - and won. The justices ruled that banning the practice was an unconstitutional attack on the freedom of religion. Political guru Dick Morris was always something of a controversial figure, even before he was caught whispering White House secrets to a Washington call girl. President Bill Clinton's veteran consultants, including top Democratic strategist James 'Ragin' Cajun' Carville, always disliked the decision of their boss to bring Mr Morris into his inner circle in 1995 to boost his flagging fortunes. His biggest crime, they thought, was to have prostituted himself by working for Republicans or Democrats - anyone who would pay. The fact that Mr Morris' counsel helped Mr Clinton to an easy re-election did not stop the rivalry between him and Mr Carville, which has resurfaced in the unlikely venue of Honduras. The pair squared off in the Central American republic's recent presidential election, and this time Mr Morris lost out. He had been advising candidate Nora de Melgar, who was beaten by rival Carlos Flores - who had employed Mr Carville. Miffed at a rare political defeat, Mr Morris recently penned a column for Washington insider magazine The Hill, in which he accused the Flores team of election fraud. 'I can only assume that his [Carville's] ego, if not his ethics, would bar participation in, or knowledge of, Flores' tawdry tactics,' ran the piece. Ouch. Not one to pass up on a fight, Mr Carville finally let the world know what he thinks of Mr Morris. In a letter of reply to The Hill, he called him 'a first-class liar' and said he was 'making excuses for his staggering and historic defeat'. Ever won a court case against someone and then found it impossible to get your hands on the money they owe you? If so, you might want to try getting them where it really hurts: in their frequent-flier miles. The National Organisation for Women (NOW) has taken this novel approach after years of being stymied in getting hold of about US$600,000 (HK$4.64 million) it is owed under a court award against the vehement anti-abortion activist Randall Terry. NOW, a veteran women's rights group, has asked 13 major airlines to freeze any flier miles they have credited to Mr Terry and hand them over. The move is something of a last resort after Mr Terry withdrew funds and closed down several of his bank accounts after he got word that NOW was about to raid them. So far, all they have managed to find is US$6,000. Mr Terry and several pro-life groups were ordered to pay several million dollars in fines after a late 1980s campaign of civil disturbances outside abortion clinics. But it seems he is as militant and unbending as ever. 'Those NOW people are killers,' he said of their latest move. 'Let them use my frequent flier miles on their train ride to Hades.'